"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
By Stephen Davey
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
I read a gripping story of a godly old man whose days were coming to an end. A priest went to visit him in his hospital room and noticed an empty chair beside the man's bed. He asked, "Have you had a visitor?" The man replied, "No, I haven't had a visitor. But when I became a Christian as a youth, someone told me that praying was like talking to your very best friend. When I heard that, I decided to pull up an empty chair beside me every day and invite Christ to sit and talk with me. And I just finished my conversation with the Lord."
After the man passed away, his daughter wrote of her visit to the hospital room. She said of her father:
"He seemed content, so I left him for a few hours. When I returned, I knew that he had gone to be with the Lord. But the interesting thing was that his head was not resting on his pillow. His body had turned and his head was resting on the seat of an empty hair that had been pulled up close to his bed."
Isn't that a remarkable picture? We, who are weak and frail like this dying man, have been given the opportunity to rest our head on the loving, omnipotent breast of God. Death is only a continuation of the pursuit we begin in this life to know God. That is why prayer is a taste of heaven on earth. God, in His humility and love toward us, stepped down from His heavenly throne and seated Himself upon the chair of our heart where we can intimately and personally converse with Him.
George Macdonald, the Scottish pastor who had a profound impact on C. S. Lewis, illustrated this beautifully when he said:
"I used to play a game with my two children when they were young. I would clutch some pennies in my hand and allow them to pry open my fingers to get the coins. My children would sit in my lap and work feverishly to get the money. Once they captured the coins, they would scream with delight and jump down to treasure their prize. I loved having my youngsters laugh and play while sitting on my lap—the pennies were insignificant."
Macdonald went on to apply this truth: "While God, in His grace, does give good gifts to His children, He offers us more than that . . . He offers us Himself. Those who are merely satisfied with the trinkets in the Father's hands miss the best reward of prayer—the reward of communicating and communing with the God of the universe."
As we go to God in prayer, let's remember that the greatest thrill in praying to Him is not in seeing how He will answer our petitions, nor in discovering what trinkets He might be holding in His all-powerful hand. The greatest privilege is actually being able to have a conversation with God Himself!
Perhaps prayer will become a personal conversation . . . if you pull up an empty chair.
Prayer Point: Go ahead—pull up a chair beside you right now and tell God how grateful you are for His friendship. Spend a few moments talking with Him: tell Him your struggles, your joys, your thoughts; ask Him your questions; thank Him for allowing you to have a conversation with Him, much less a personal relationship with the Lord of all the universe.
Extra Refreshment: Read John 17
When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place… —Matthew 6:6
The primary thought in the area of religion is— keep your eyes on God, not on people. Your motivation should not be the desire to be known as a praying person. Find an inner room in which to pray where no one even knows you are praying, shut the door, and talk to God in secret. Have no motivation other than to know your Father in heaven. It is impossible to carry on your life as a disciple without definite times of secret prayer.
“When you pray, do not use vain repetitions…” (Matthew 6:7). God does not hear us because we pray earnestly— He hears us solely on the basis of redemption. God is never impressed by our earnestness. Prayer is not simply getting things from God— that is only the most elementary kind of prayer. Prayer is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God. If the Son of God has been formed in us through regeneration (see Galatians 4:19), then He will continue to press on beyond our common sense and will change our attitude about the things for which we pray.
“Everyone who asks receives…” (Matthew 7:8). We pray religious nonsense without even involving our will, and then we say that God did not answer— but in reality we have never asked for anything. Jesus said, “…you will ask what you desire…” (John 15:7). Asking means that our will must be involved. Whenever Jesus talked about prayer, He spoke with wonderful childlike simplicity. Then we respond with our critical attitude, saying, “Yes, but even Jesus said that we must ask.” But remember that we have to ask things of God that are in keeping with the God whom Jesus Christ revealed.
My Utmost for His Highest
Daily devotionals by Oswald Chambers
. . . I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord --Jeremiah 1:8
God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally— “. . . your life shall be as a prize to you . . .” (Jeremiah 39:18). That is all God promises His children. Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are to be a matter of indifference to us, and our hold on these things should be very loose. If this is not the case, we will have panic, heartache, and distress. Having the proper outlook is evidence of the deeply rooted belief in the overshadowing of God’s personal deliverance.
The Sermon on the Mount indicates that when we are on a mission for Jesus Christ, there is no time to stand up for ourselves. Jesus says, in effect, “Don’t worry about whether or not you are being treated justly.” Looking for justice is actually a sign that we have been diverted from our devotion to Him. Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it. If we look for justice, we will only begin to complain and to indulge ourselves in the discontent of self-pity, as if to say, “Why should I be treated like this?” If we are devoted to Jesus Christ, we have nothing to do with what we encounter, whether it is just or unjust. In essence, Jesus says, “Continue steadily on with what I have told you to do, and I will guard your life. If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.” Even the most devout among us become atheistic in this regard— we do not believe Him. We put our common sense on the throne and then attach God’s name to it. We do lean to our own understanding, instead of trusting God with all our hearts (see Proverbs 3:5-6).
The First Gaze
Monday, June 30, 2014
I am just like you. My immediate response to most situations is with reactions of attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating.
Let’s admit that we all start there. The False Self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything.
The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads us to an implosion, a self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended,” can we immediately stand with and for the other, and in the present moment. It takes lots of practice.
On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” as Gerald May says, I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Often I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the False Self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on daily prayer, in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before we go to bed, too! Otherwise, I can assume that I am back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile “Richard self.”
Adapted from “Contemplation and Compassion: The Second Gaze”
(article by Fr. Richard available free on CAC website)
Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.
“Do not be afraid.” We have read these words in the bible many times. We sing it in our songs. We hear our family and friends tell us not to worry. But we go on our fearful way, thinking our worry will solve the problem and then our fears will be gone with the wind.
We know in our hearts that Jesus is taking care of us. But why can't we get our thoughts to go along with our hearts? Why should that be hard? And the answer is in our humanity. Our weakness. We are tempted away from God and fall so easily into being lost in our questions. So we spend our time worrying, wasting our time and days. Worrying doesn't help anything, it just takes us away from Jesus. Worrying takes us out of the presence of God in the now and leads us nowhere.
I want you to remember something. Jesus is holding your hand. Just like Isaiah 41:13 says, 'I am holding you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, do not be afraid. I am here to help you.'
Those are the words we need to live by. God is with us at all times, holding our hand. When we are worrying, we are letting go of Jesus' hand and saying, “Hold on Jesus. I am going to sit here alone for awhile. I need to figure this out.” Why would we want to make the choice to let go of Jesus' hand? Why would we want to tell Jesus to hang on a minute, while we worry about something we cannot change at that moment. Why would we let go of the loving hand of Jesus.
He has a wonderful plan for us. Part of that plan is allowing our Father to take care of us, allowing Him to hold us by the hand. In our most difficult times, when we do not feel God's presence and feel abandoned, those are the moments we need to hold on fast. Don't let go! Talk with Jesus, pray with Jesus and trust in Jesus. “Do not be afraid.”
By: Mary Maddox
Dear Lord, in this quiet night, guide my way.
Lead my dreaming into Your dreams for me.
Help me to understand that in their mystery
there is healing and divine assistance
waiting to free me,
just a little more from me.
Lord, in this sacred dark,
I invoke the angels to protect me,
to stay close,
spreading their wings over me,
surrounding me, covering me,
whispering their night prayers,
the ones that assure and promise to keep me
and everyone I love safe.
I need their prayers to keep the shadows at bay
and to ready my heart for the blessings
of guidance and grace
that awaits me tomorrow.
Lord, I thank you now, in advance,
just in case in the morning light
I am disoriented and doubtful
about beginning again
my greatest task....
the holy project of finding me,
the one You formed in my mother's womb.
By: Kathleen Aparo
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time...though it tarry, wait for it...”(Habakkuk 2:3, KJV)
TODAY’S WORD from Joel and VictoriaGod has an appointed time to fulfill the visions, dreams and desires in your heart. Just because it has taken a long time or because you’ve tried and failed doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Don’t give up on those dreams! Don’t be complacent about pursuing what God has placed in your heart. Our God is a faithful God. No matter how long it’s been, no matter how impossible things look, if you’ll stay in faith, your set time is coming.
Remember, every dream that’s in your heart, every promise that has taken root, God put it there. Not only that, but He has every intention of bringing it to pass. Hold on to that vision today. Declare by faith, “My time is coming. God is working behind the scenes on my behalf. I will fulfill my destiny!” As you continue to hold on to that vision and speak life over your dreams, it won’t be long before you see them begin to take shape. You’ll see your faith grow, you’ll see your hope strengthen, and you’ll see yourself step into the destiny God has prepared for you!
A PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, thank You for placing dreams and desires in my heart. I trust that You are at work to bring them to pass even when I can’t see it, even when it’s taking longer than I thought. I know that You are faithful, and I trust You completely in Jesus’ name, Amen.— Joel & Victoria Osteen
by Joyce Meyer - posted June 16, 2014
Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.
O God, why do You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger burn and smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?
As I think about the storms we all face in life, I can understand why people sometimes ask, “Why the storms? Why do we have so many problems and struggles in life? Why do God’s people have to deal with so much suffering?”
As I considered these questions, I began to see that Satan plants these questions in our minds. It is his attempt to keep us focused on our problems instead of focusing on the goodness of God. If we persist in asking these questions, we’re implying that God may be to blame. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask God why things happen. The writers of the psalms certainly didn’t hesitate to ask.
I think of the story of Jesus when He visited the home of Mary and Martha after their brother, Lazarus, died. Jesus waited until Lazarus had been dead for four days before He visited. When He arrived, Martha said to Jesus, “Master, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). She went on to say, “And even now I know that whatever You ask from God, He will grant it to You” (v. 22).
Did she really believe those words? I wonder, because “Jesus said to her, Your brother shall rise again. Martha replied, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (vs. 23-24). She didn’t get what Jesus was saying.
I don’t want to be unkind to Martha, but she missed it. When Jesus came, she didn’t ask, “Why didn’t You do something?” Instead she said, “If You had been here—if You had been on the job—he’d be alive.”
When Jesus assured her that Lazarus would rise again, she didn’t understand that it was going to happen right then. She could focus only on the resurrection. By looking at an event that was still in the future, she missed the real meaning of Jesus’ words for the present.
But aren’t many of us like Martha? We want our lives to run smoothly, and when they don’t, we ask why? But we really mean, “God, if You truly loved and cared for me, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Let’s think a little more about the “why” question. For example, when someone dies in an accident, one of the first questions family members ask is why? “Why her? Why now? Why this accident?”
For one moment, let’s say God explained the reason. Would that change anything? Probably not. The loved one is still gone, and the pain is just as severe as it was before. What, then, did you learn from the explanation?
In recent years, I’ve begun to think that why isn’t what Christians are really asking God. Is it possible that we’re asking, “God, do You love me? Will You take care of me in my sorrow and pain? You won’t leave me alone in my pain, will You?” Is it possible that, because we’re afraid that God doesn’t truly care about us, we ask for explanations?
Instead, we must learn to say, “Lord God, I believe. I don’t understand, and I could probably never grasp all the reasons why bad things happen, but I can know for certain that You love me and You are with me—always.”
Heavenly Father, instead of asking for answers to the why questions, help me to focus on Your great love for me. When Satan tries to fill my mind with troublesome questions, help me to feel the protection of Your loving, caring arms around me. Help me always to show my gratitude and devotion for all that You do for me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
From the book Battlefield of the Mind Devotional by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2006 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.
Because you are God, I can ask what I will
I can bring to you all of those who are ill
I can name everyone whose thoughts bring unease
And all of the many plagued by disease.
Those bodies betrayed by sickness, severe
Those families in crisis who don’t feel you near.
Because you are God, you feel every pain
Because you are God, you know them by name.
I bring them, I leave them, knowing each is a part
Of your sacred, compassionate, all loving heart.
I’ll remind you today; I’ll remind you tomorrow
Please God bless the many with hearts full of sorrow.
An excerpt from Living in the Father’s Embrace
BY: FR. GEORGE MONTAGUE, S.M.
Jesus assures us that we can have that Holy Spirit for the asking. Our asking cannot, however, be routine. It must be passionate and persevering.
That is the meaning of Jesus’ story just before he tells us to ask (Luke 11:5-8). A midnight visitor arrives, and the family provider has no bread to set before him. So the host has to go next door and bang repeatedly on the neighbor’s door, even after refusals, until finally the neighbor gets up and hands him an armful of loaves. God wants us to nag and keep nagging, because the process deepens our desire and our capacity to receive and appreciate the gift once given.
So how badly do we want the Holy Spirit? How badly do we thirst for him? Are we like the cowboy who sings, “All day I’ve faced the barren waste without a taste of water, cool water”? If you don’t remember the song, think of the time when you were so thirsty that you thought of nothing else but water. That’s the thirst we should have for the Holy Spirit. It means dropping all other priorities until we reach the well of living water.
And what happens when we get there? I cannot tell you because you have to experience it for yourself. All I can say is that you are experiencing a creature’s share in Jesus’ experience of the Father. You have been granted entry into the unimaginable depths of the Godhead, the eternal gaze of the Son upon the Father on whose breast he rests (John 1:18). St. Paul says as much when he writes that “eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it ever entered the mind of man, what God has prepared for those who love him,” yet this is what “God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches out everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10; my translation).
The Holy Spirit is thus the searchlight, revealing things about God that we would never dream of. He is like the lights and camera, sunk to the depths of the Atlantic and revealing the Titanic, or a guide throwing a powerful flashlight on a cavern wall and showing us an awesome, eons-old water-crafted pillar. But the Father is no Titanic, nor is he an awesome pillar. He is … no words will do. Let the wordless Word carry you from here.
This article is an excerpt from *Living in the Father’s Embrace *by Fr. George Montague, which is available from the Word Among Us Press.
By William A. Barry, SJ
From God’s Passionate Desire
Why do we pray? Do we pray for utilitarian reasons—because it benefits our physical or psychological health?
Honesty compels me to say that I often do pray for utilitarian reasons. First of all, most of my prayers of petition ask for some good result, either for me or for someone else or for all people. Moreover, I feel contented when I remember in prayer the people who mean much to me, even if my prayer is not answered. I notice, too, that I feel better about myself when I pray regularly. I feel more centered, more in tune with the present, less anxious about the past or the future. So I suspect that I do pray for the purpose of psychological or physical health. But does that exhaust my motivations for prayer?
Prayer Is a Relationship
Thinking of prayer as a conscious relationship, or friendship, with God may be illuminating. Why do we spend time with good friends? As I pondered this question, I realized that I relish times with good friends for some of the same reasons just adduced for spending time in prayer. If I have not had good conversations with close friends for some time, I feel out of sorts, somewhat lonely, and ill at ease. When I am with good friends, I feel more whole and alive.
Still, I do not believe that my only reason for wanting time with them is to feel better. I want to be with them because I love them. I am genuinely interested in and concerned for them. The beneficial effect that being with them has on me is a happy by-product. Moreover, I have often spent time with friends when it cost me trouble and time, and I did it because they wanted my presence. Haven’t we all spent time with a close friend who was ill or depressed, even when the time was painful and difficult? Such time spent cannot be explained on utilitarian grounds. We spend that time because we love our friend for his or her own sake.
Of course, there are times when we need the presence of close friends because we are in pain or lonely. Friendship would not be a mutual affair if we were always the ones who gave and never were open to receive. But if we are not totally egocentric, we will have to admit that we do care for others for their own sakes, and not just for what we can get from the relationship. We spend time with our friends because of our mutual care and love. Can we say the same thing about our relationship with God?
Our Deepest Desires
Prayer is a conscious relationship with God. Just as we spend time with friends because we love them and care for them, we spend time in prayer because we love God and want to be with God. Created out of love, we are drawn by the desire for “we know not what,” for union with the ultimate Mystery, who alone will satisfy our deepest longing. That desire, we can say, is the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts, drawing us to the perfect fulfillment for which we were created—namely, community with the Trinity. That desire draws us toward a more and more intimate union with God.
We pray, then, at our deepest level, because we are drawn by the bonds of love. We pray because we love, and not just for utilitarian purposes. If prayer has beneficial effects—and I believe that it does—that is because prayer corresponds to our deepest reality. When we are in tune with God, we cannot help but experience deep well-being. Ignatius of Loyola spoke of consolation as a sign of a person’s being in tune with God’s intention. But in the final analysis, the lover does not spend time with the Beloved because of the consolation; the lover just wants to be with the Beloved.
Thanks and Praise
Another motive for prayer is the desire to praise and thank God because of his great kindness and mercy. In contemplating Jesus, we discover that God’s love is not only creative but also overwhelmingly self-sacrificing. Jesus loved us even as we nailed him to the cross.
If we allow the desire for “we know not what” to draw us more and more into a relationship of mutual love with God, then we will, I believe, gradually take as our own that wonderful prayer so dear to St. Francis Xavier that begins O Deus, ego amo te, nec amo te ut salves me: “O God, I love you, and not because I hope for heaven thereby.” Gerard Manley Hopkins translated the prayer:
I love thee, God, I love thee--
Not out of hope for heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.
Thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yea and death, and this for me,
And thou couldst see me sinning:
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesus so much in love with me?
Not for heaven’s sake, not to be
Out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and will love thee.
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God. Amen.
Excerpt from God’s Passionate Desire by William A. Barry, SJ.
- See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-what-how-why-of-prayer/why-do-we-pray/
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen